Attorneys for Civic Education (“ACE”) is proud to announce that three Idaho Students and their schools were selected for prizes in ACE’s second Civics Contest. Student essays explored the federal and state constitutional right to a jury trial in a criminal case from the standpoint of both the accused and citizens serving as jurors. The three winning entries were: Ella Barton, North Junior High School; Jesse Evelyn, Evelyn Family Homeschool; and Aunna Reynolds, Idaho Home Learning Academy. ACE would like to extend its gratitude to all the students who submitted entries and the teachers who supported them in that effort.
The ACE Civics Contest is open to Idaho middle school students. The contest was financially sponsored by the Idaho State Bar Fourth District Bar Association, whose financial contribution allowed ACE to award prizes to the top three entries along with an honorarium to the schools to be used for civics-related purposes. The Idaho Supreme Court, Idaho Court of Appeals, and the University of Idaho College of Law also provided extensive support.
One of the members of the judging panel, Donald Burnett, noted: “The students, ranging in age from 11 to 14, showed a welcome appreciation for the importance of juries under the federal and state constitutions, as well as for the right and responsibility of citizens to participate directly in their government through jury service.”
ACE would like to thank the judging panel – Justice Gregory Moeller, Don Burnett, Melissa Davlin, and Frith Stevenson – and the Fourth District Bar Association for their support of the Civics Contest. We appreciate their dedication to advancing civic education in Idaho.
ACE welcomes new members. Visit our website for more information. One of the three winning entries is published below, as well as in print in the February 2023 issue of The Advocate.
By Aunna Reynolds
Imagine if one was suddenly thrown in jail only to sit there for the rest of one’s life not knowing the reason for the incarceration or having the ability to prove one’s innocence. Without the right to trial by jury, that could happen! In the United States Constitution it confirms the right to a speedy and public trial. This makes it so people can’t throw others in jail and say they will give them a trial but never do it. It also guarantees the right to a public trial meaning they can’t hold a trial in some distant location. This right protects them from others twisting whatever happened in the trial for their benefit. Clearly, trial by jury is a very important constitutional right for the accused, but it is also important for those serving as jurors.
The Idaho Constitution and the United States Constitution explain the right to trial by jury. In the United States Constitution amendment six it states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” It also affirms the right to a lawyer, witnesses, and the right to know about any accusations imposed upon one. The Idaho Constitution in section seven states, ”The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate …. trial by jury may be waived in all criminal cases, by the consent of all parties, expressed in open court.”
They both confirm the importance of a trial by jury as well as rights one has for protection
against people who abuse power. The United States Constitution lays the foundation of what
trial by jury is. The Idaho Constitution explains when, in criminal cases, a trial by jury could be waived and the necessary circumstances for that to occur.
Trial by jury is not only for the benefits of the accused, it also is beneficial for those serving as jurors. Jurors are given the ability to help each other in making sure others’ rights are protected. In being part of a jury one can participate and appreciate our laws and constitution. Jurors also have the ability to learn their rights so that if they are accused they can be prepared and have experience. Jurors can also meet other people of various backgrounds and personalities and participate in their role as a citizen.
Trial by jury is an important and influential right not only for the accused but also for the jurors. By being able to have a trial by jury, rights are protected and remain pure. Due to the many laws and rights written in the Idaho and United states Constitutions, freedom can continue on. Trial by jury is one of the most important rights that one has in preserving liberty.
Aunna Reynolds is an 8th-grader at Idaho Home Learning Academy. She loves living in Idaho and spending time outside, especially if it involves camping, xc-skiing, or figure skating. She also enjoys painting, reading, and being with family and friends.